Author Archives: Rachel Ruhlen

Public Right-of-Way Accessibility

People with certificates

Left to right: Tiffany, Dr. Eck, Rachel, and Garrett

RVARC staff and volunteers learned about the Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG) during a workshop from the University of Virginia Transportation Technical Academy. PROWAG ensure that all people can navigate safely on foot in the public right-of-way.

Rachel Ruhlen felt the training would enhance the bike/walk/disability audits that the Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee has been doing with locality staff. During these audits, locality staff are always impressed watching Garrett Brumfield, a committee member, or Tiffany Lee, a volunteer, navigate the sidewalk and streets in their wheelchairs, or blind volunteers find their way around using sound and touch. The audits often turn up simple repairs that can make a big difference to a person with vision or mobility impairment.

RVARC sent Rachel, Garrett, and Tiffany to the workshop to learn PROWAG, the best practices for accessibility, developed by the US Department of Justice Access Board.

Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee now accepting applications

The Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee is accepting applications for five at-large two-year terms. Terms begin July 2019 and end June 2021. Applicants must be available to meet from 3:00 – 5:00 pm on the 3rd Thursday of August, October, January, and March, and a field trip or workshop 1:00 – 5:00 pm on the 3rd Thursday of May. Members also may volunteer to assist with bike/ped counter calibration and bike/walk/disability on-road audits.

The deadline for application is May 15, 2019.

The purpose of the Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization Transportation Technical Committee, is to facilitate regional collaboration with diverse stakeholders in planning bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the Roanoke Valley. Visit the committee web page to learn more.

RVTPO brings Title VI Training to Roanoke

Mohamed Dumbuya, Title VI Coordinator and Civil Rights Program Manager for the Virginia Division of the Federal Highway Administration, gave a Title VI training to 23 people representing 12 agencies on February 27, 2019. Metropolitan planning organizations like the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) that receive federal transportation funds and must have a Title VI process to ensure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its related authorities (executive orders, related legislation, court decisions, and other regulations).

Roanoke, like many cities, used urban renewal in an unfair and discriminatory manner, with consequences that are still felt today. These practices prompted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other legislation throughout the decades. Another change since the days of urban renewal is the creation of metropolitan planning organizations which coordinate transportation planning between localities throughout the region. Abiding by Title VI and its related authorities at all steps of transportation planning ensures that the benefits and burdens of transportation projects are shared equitably.

RVTPO worked with FHWA and VDOT to bring Mohamed Dumbuya to Roanoke. Staff from RVTPO, VDOT, localities, and other MPOs took advantage of the Title VI training opportunity.

Title VI and its related authorities prohibit discrimination, intentional or unintentional, on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and age. The related authorities protect minorities, people of low income, handicapped persons, and people with limited English proficiency and mandate fair and equitable treatment of persons displaced as a result of programs and projects receiving federal funds.

For the RVTPO, Title VI means:

  • Ensuring that all stakeholders have opportunity to comment on plans, programs, and projects,
  • Making sure that the benefits and burdens of plans, programs, and projects are shared equitably,
  • Documenting the methods of administration, and
  • Documenting Title VI data.

RVTPO will be updating its Title VI Implementation Process in the coming months.

Congestion Question

The last time you experienced traffic congestion, where were you trying to go? Tell us with our first ever crowdsourcing map app!

Report congestion here. Use the buttons in the upper left to get help, add a point or a line with a comment, or view the legend.

Having trouble getting started? Click the help button in the upper left corner of the map: 

Still not sure what to do? Use the mouse to pan and the mouse wheel or the “+” and “-” buttons  to zoom in until you see the place where you experience traffic congestion. Use the search box to quickly find an address or street.

Click the “Edit” button and select “New Feature” to add a point or a line. For example, you might add a point at an intersection or specific address. Or you might draw a line along a longer segment where you experience congestion.

If adding a line, double-click to the end the line.

After adding a point or line, you can enter a comment. Tell us where you were going when you experienced traffic congestion.

The comment will be saved when you click “Close”.

RVARC receives bronze Bicycle Friendly Business designation

RVARC is now a League of American Bicyclists recognized Bronze Bicycle Friendly BusinessSM (BFBSM)!

On December 18, RVARC joined a cutting-edge group of over 1,300 local businesses, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies across the United States that are transforming the American workplace.

“Business owners and employers across the country are looking for simple, straightforward ways to build their companies, do right by their workers and customers, and contribute positively to their local communities,” says Executive Director Bill Nesper of the League of American Bicyclists. “Boosting participation in bicycling achieves all of that and more, and BFBs such as RVARC are wonderful models of that success. We congratulate this latest class of business leaders for recognizing that one of the oldest and easiest forms of transportation still generates significant economic and societal rewards today.”

BFB requirements identify incentives, programming, and amenities proven to enable and inspire more people to ride bikes. RVARC offers free bikeshare membership to its employees, maintains the Regional Bikeway Plan and interactive bike map, and works with localities to implement bicycle improvements. In addition, RVARC staffs the Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee. RIDE Solutions, a program of RVARC, launched Zagster bikeshare in 2017, and administers the Bike Hero award and the bicycle rack donation program. RVARC planner Rachel Ruhlen likes working for a BFB because, “As a planner, I know that the more people who bike to work, the stronger the community is. Working for a BFB inspires me to bike to work more.”

According to RIDE Solutions employee Tim Pohlad-Thomas, “the most significant actions taken by RVARC in the past year have been expanding the new Zagster bikeshare program and reenergizing the Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which conducts bike/walk/disability audits of on-road bike/ped facilities for localities.”

Learn more about the League’s Bicycle Friendly Business program at bikeleague.org/business.

Bicycle Friendly Business and BFB are Service Marks of the League of American Bicyclists; used with permission.

Meet the renovated Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee

In August of 2016, the Regional Bicycle Advisory Committee met for the first time in a couple of years. Most of those who attended were locality staff, and they missed the citizens who had given such valuable input into the bike projects throughout the years. New staff struggled to understand the purpose and function of the committee and its history. In short, the committee experienced an existential crisis, asking why it existed, who it was, what it should do, and how it should do it.

Committee members explore the Garden City Greenway with the engineer on an annual field trip

After several deep discussions, the group worked with the Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) to develop its purpose and procedures. Its named changed to the Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, reflecting the close relationship of bicycle and pedestrian issues.

The purpose of the Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee is to facilitate regional collaboration with diverse stakeholders in planning bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the Roanoke Valley. It develops an Action Plan to guide its efforts each year and reports to the Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) of the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization. Members are roughly half locality staff and half citizens.

The TTC adopted the purpose and procedures of the new committee on January 11, 2018 and began accepting applications for the ten at-large positions. Astonishingly, the TTC received 25 applications! Applications included teachers, bike shops, accountants, and non-profit staff. They bike and walk for transportation, for fun and fitness, or by necessity. We had a diverse pool of applicants representing “protected populations” criteria such as mobility impairment, visual impairment, minority, and low-income. With so many well-qualified applicants, the decisions were difficult.

In April, the TTC appointed the initial ten at-large members to staggered two-year terms. The committee itself will make future appointments subject to TTC approval. The committee will meet on June 21, 2018, 4:00 – 6:00 pm at the Regional Commission, 313 Luck Ave SW, to learn about its roles and responsibilities and discuss its Action Plan. Meetings are open to the public. Learn more on the committee web page.

New Public Participation Plan adopted

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) adopted a Public Participation Plan on February 22, 2018, replacing the 2007 Public Participation Plan.

The purpose of public participation is to support transportation planning and promote the integrity and transparency of the transportation planning process.

RVTPO wants public participation to be:

  • Meaningful to the public – People should feel that their comments matter. Public input into a transportation plan should be timely, happen early enough to influence the outcome, and continue as the plan develops. The RVTPO is accountable to the public for their input. RVTPO Policy Board decisions reflect the diversity of viewpoints.
  • High quality – When people understand that transportation planning is complex, regional, and long-term, they can give input that is relevant, thoughtful, and practical. The RVTPO educates and explains transportation planning. Clarity of purpose and clarity of expectation improve the quality of public input.
  • Variety of input – The RVTPO seeks a breadth of representation in public input that is from different points of view, different needs, and different backgrounds.
  • High quantity – The more people who are engaged, the better the RVTPO can understand the transportation needs and priorities of the region. The RVTPO will provide convenient and delightful ways to participate with many options of how to participate, and continue to seek new ways to invite participation.

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) fully complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related statutes and regulations in all programs and activities. The RVTPO also complies with ADA requirements. For more information about Title VI and ADA compliance, click here.

RVARC researches online survey tools

Example of a MetroQuest survey

Choosing the right online survey tool is one of several critical aspects to a successful survey. RVARC staff researched other cities, states, and MPOs to learn which survey tools other agencies are using and for what purposes.

RVARC staff considered several factors in evaluating online survey tools. Online survey tools generally have standard options such as multiple choice, select all that apply, short answer, and long answer. Some survey tools allow image-based questions or skip-logic depending on how the respondent answers a question. Some create mobile-friendly surveys or surveys that can be embedded in a website. Some survey tools limit the survey to a single page. An integrated map tool is an essential feature for transportation-related surveys.

SurveyMonkey is a standard among many agencies, and inexpensive. The RVARC has subscribed to SurveyMonkey for years.

Google Forms is a free option that is easy to use and integrate into a website or email.

MetroQuest surveys can get thousands of responses. MetroQuest specializes in public input for planning. MetroQuest developed a survey tool with the philosophy that public input should be a delightful experience.

Taking a MetroQuest survey is like playing a video game. Respondents drop virtual coins into different buckets representing road maintenance, transit, or sidewalks. They drag topics to the top of a list to indicate their priorities. They experiment with scenarios to modulate trade-offs among their priorities. They move pointers around on a map. MetroQuest is an excellent, though costly, survey tool.

Other survey tools that could be used for public input include PublicInput.com, Snap Surveys, Survey Act, Survey Gizmo, and SoGoSurvey. Tools for interactive forum discussions on individual projects include Mind Mixer, Peak Democracy, and Bang the Table.

You may see some of these tools employed in the next Long-Range Transportation Plan update.

Bike to Work Day!

The Regional Commission Bike Room recently got a facelift. A cleanup and a little paint transformed it from a dank and scary closet into a bright and spacious room. The six (of thirteen) employees who sometimes bike celebrated the improved Bike Room by all biking on the same day! Before the renovation, this would have been a problem– the Bike Room didn’t hold six bicycles.

Before work began, the bike room shared space with janitorial and other supplies.

RIDE Solutions staff Tim and Jeremy painted and laid tile. Renovation cost: $0! They selected paint and tiles from what they had on hand.

The maximum capacity before renovation was 4 bikes. The capacity after is 6 bikes and room to spare!

The parking lot is normally full, unless we’re all at a meeting. Today is was empty– but we were all here!

All 6 bikes in 1 parking space

Each bike in its own parking space